With the first rays of fall streaming in through the trees and reflecting on the strongest leaves still clinging to the branches of the alder trees, I reminisce to my holiday in England when, uncharacteristically, the weather was hot, and even the female statue in my aunt's garden was sweating in the heat.
Pigeons huddled on the low branches of trees, or hid in the clutches of fruit bushes to escape the heat, their presence only known by their constant cooing to each other, and once night fell, their rustled feathers could also be heard as they made their way across the grass in search of food or one another.
Now, bundled in a sweater and my feet cozied into slippers, I rush to each spot of sun that makes its way into the house, where its still warm.
In England, it felt like the south of France for those few days under the sweltering heat when we ate dinner outside under the trellis of vine leaves, and the adults drank southern wines. The table sat all nine of us, and my aunt cooked elaborate meals, which always included gluten-free foods for my grandad who lives nearby, just a short walk to pop by.
My aunt spent those afternoons painting in her conservatory, which was elaborately decorated and dotted with paint brushes and pots, and cooking in the sweltering kitchen. After a few days of the sun's persistent heat, she was forced to put up curtains to block the sun, and to keep the room cooler as heat from the oven always filled the room as well. Returning from exploring the nearby towns, one being the seaside at Lulworth Cove, where the beach was an endless expanse of families and children playing in the sun, aromas of home cooking would be filling the house as dinner cooked.
A large bowl of freshly picked berries sat on the table, covered to keep out the pesky flies who envied our delicacies that evening.
My aunt informed me that my dad had told her about a cheesecake I baked a few weeks before flying to England, made using a simple recipe, but with a wild berry coulis to serve, and with berries inside.
Since I had baked another pie for her when she came to visit us that spring, it was time for her to reciprocate.
The Dessert Competition had begun.
However, all competitiveness aside, her cheesecake was delicious, probably even the best. And since it was gluten-free, I decided to tweak my own recipe.
That evening, with the trill of pigeons to each other across the yard, and all of us laughing and enjoying each others company, I felt a sense of ease and familiarity of being around everyone so close to me. I loved being around family that holiday, and enjoyed every moment, bathing in the relaxed lifestyle of summer as I laid in the sun soaking up the heat.
I spent most of my time in my aunt's garden those few days as well, the grass, cut short by my uncle the day previous, rolled down in a slight hill ending at the rows of bushes enclosing the delicate flower beds and towering apple tree. Roses dotted the garden, adding delicate color, and creating the perfect English garden image I remember so clearly. On a beach towel draped across a lawn chair, I balanced a cold drink on the arm rest and a book in my right hand.
I tried doing this a few days ago here, however a steaming mug of tea replaced my cold drink, and the towel was a blanket. With the falling sun across the sky, I was forced to move my chair after each page I read to avoid cooling off in the growing shade. The sun would dance behind the trees, or disappear behind a mass of cloud, formed from the evaporation of last night's rainfall.
Similar to England, I couldn't stay out long, but for a different reason. In England, the heat became too much and my mouth parched after I'd finished my iced drink, and the shade beckoned me in its oasis cool. Here, inside beckons to me in its comforting warmth and steaming kettle, a preferable alternative to the chill outside.
The Best Gluten-Free Berry Cheesecake
This cheesecake is best for the summer season, when berries can be picked and be used fresh, however, frozen berries can also be used. If you don't have any gluten-free shortbread cookies to make this crust, try my gluten-free cheesecake crust from almond meal, but without the ginger for this summer cheesecake.
Makes one 9 inch cheesecake. (Serves 8-10)
1 c crushed gluten-free shortbread cookies
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
2 packets (250g each) of cream cheese
200 mL sour cream
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 - 2 c fresh or frozen berries (I like raspberries)
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
Mix the gluten-free shortbread crumbs with brown sugar, and add the melted butter until combined. Press mixture into the pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add the sour cream, sugar and vanilla, whirling until well mixed. With the motor running, slowly add the beaten eggs.
Pour the mixture over the crust, making sure it covers evenly.
Press approximately 1 c of whole berries into the uncooked cheesecake, allowing them to sink into the mixture.
Place the cheesecake in a heat proof baking dish with sides, and fill the dish with hot water about one to two inches up the side of the pan.
Lower the oven temperature to 300°F and bake in the centre of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, and run a hot knife around the edges before placing it in the fridge to cool completely, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
To make the coulis, blend the remaining berries, saving some for serving, until pureed and add sugar to taste if need. Cover, and keep in the fridge.
Pour coulis over each slice of cheesecake, and top with whole berries.
It's really important to be very delicate with the cheesecake, as rushing the process can lead to the cheesecake cracking or not cooking properly. To prevent crumbling when serving, use a hot, clean knife to cut each piece, running the knife under hot water between each cut.
Labels: berry, cheesecake, dessert, gluten free, raspberry, summer